The next big thing

Jun 17, 2013 by

Four years. That’s how long I worked at Smart Growth America (SGA). That’s twice as long as I’ve been at any job before (hell, that’s longer than most political terms of office or a Hollywood marriage). The last four years have also included some of the most profound personal, professional and business-related milestones I’ve ever experienced in my life: getting married, buying a house, starting my career coaching side hustle, serving as a YNPNdc leadership team member, being appointed to serve on the Arlington County Transportation Commission and probably dozens of other things I can’t even remember.

My experience at SGA, combined with all of these other experiences, have led to me to where I am today: accepting a job with Rescue Social Change Group (Rescue SCG) as their Youth Engagement Director. This new position is quite a departure from the work I was doing on smart growth, community development, land use and transportation to a focus solidly on social change among youth, with a particular focus on health issues – especially anti-tobacco use and anti-obesity. I wasn’t particularly looking for this opportunity (or any other job for that matter), which seems to make it even more serendipitous.

But here’s the thing: it’s exactly where I need, want and PLANNED to be, right from the beginning.

Remember how I was going to change the world? My method for doing that was to organize, outreach, advocate and create social change by training and teaching others to do it effectively. Several years ago, I decided that my goal was to lead the field department of a major national nonprofit. Now, Rescue SCG isn’t a nonprofit – it’s actually a for-profit so this will be my first foray into that sector – and they don’t technically have a ‘field’ department, but I will be managing a team of staff on the ground, working with youth to do targeted campaigns to reduce tobacco use and obesity among their peers. In other words: I get to do almost exactly what I set out to do over 10 years ago when I started this journey known as my career. Awesome!

After my last big job search, I wrote a series of posts sharing a bunch of tips and resources for job searching (here, here, here, here and here). While I’m still completely on-board with those tips, I thought I’d write a little bit about the different type of job search inherent in a director-level job.

Here are three things I think were a big part of my success in landing this new job:

  1. While I was asked to apply for this new job, I wasn’t 100% qualified for it – and I knew that. Taking over a large team scattered all around the country when I have only supervised a few associates, fellows and interns based in a central office? Managing multiple client relationships simultaneously when I’ve only ever managed one or two at a time? I didn’t have everything I needed for this job. But what I did have was lots of different kinds of experiences in management, client relationships, etc., a willingness to learn, grow and get better and a fire in my belly to take this next step in my career. In fact, I was actually told that this fire was part of the reason I was hired. That fire and the drive to succeed can and will be recognized by those hiring for senior level managers.
  2. Again, even though I wasn’t actively searching for a job, I was prepared if an opportunity came up (you know how I feel about being prepared, especially as a job seeker). When I got asked to apply, it only took me a few days to pull together my application materials; my resume was already updated and I had writing samples ready and waiting. The only thing I needed to write was the cover letter. Maybe more importantly, I had a storehouse of good, recent examples demonstrating my management skills, budget experience, campaign knowledge, etc. The ability to answer some of those difficult questions with relevant examples certainly made interviewing easier for me and likely helpful for my new employer in making their decision.
  3. Finally, I interviewed them as much as they interviewed me. I must have asked at least 15 to 20 questions in each interview I did and of course did a ton of research on their website, did Google searches and checked out LinkedIn profiles. When accepting a senior level position with a lot of responsibility, I think that its only fair to have a really complete picture of what you’ll be expected to do as well as when, how and what types of serious organizational decision making you’ll be asked (or required) to do. Even if your goal is to gain that decision-making authority, transitioning from a role where you don’t have much of it to one where you may have all of it is pretty daunting and you need to know where you stand before you say ‘yes’.

With all of this in mind and the promise of a very busy schedule for the foreseeable future, I’m going to take a hiatus from writing in this space for the next few months. I want (and need!) to be able to get a handle on everything before I can reasonably split my attention again. But don’t worry: with my new role, new responsibilities and new challenges will come lots of great fodder for the blog. In the interim, you can of course connect with me on Twitter and I’ll still be offering career coaching services, especially resume and cover letter review.

Thanks so much and wish me luck!

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You can lead kickass meetings and trainings

Sep 13, 2012 by

I’ve ranted about crappy meetings and conference presentations in this space before, but I needed to come back to it in light of the somewhat ridiculous number of meetings, conferences and trainings I’ve been planning and attending lately.

Designing trainings and other adult learning experiences is one of my deepest passions and I spend a LOT of time thinking about how to make them interesting, fun and useful. The same came be said for meetings I lead (though to a slightly lesser extent – its hard to make most meetings fun, no matter how great you are at planning them).

Here are a few suggestions for making your next meeting or training as kickass as it can be:

  • Plan, plan, plan and be prepared – You’re shocked right? The Queen of Planning suggests you plan yet again? Why yes I do. Whether you’re giving a conference session or a training, you should spend AT LEAST double the amount of time the actual session takes planning for it. Along with a coworker, I’m giving a full two-day presentation in early October. Even though each of us have presented on similar topics before, we’ve already spent at least 10 hours prepping and we’ll spend at least 15 to 20 more before we’re done (all for a total of about 12 training hours). For regular meetings that I lead, I spend anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours prepping for them – the prep includes following up on action items from the last meeting, developing an agenda and making sure any key documents are close at hand before we step into the meeting.
  • Decide on outcomes and goals – This fits into the ‘plan’ category above, but deserves its own separate mention. You should NEVER walk into a meeting, training or conference session without some idea of the goals and outcomes you want to come out with on the other end. It can be as simple as “people will feel they’ve learned something” and as complicated as developing a full workplan for a project you’re doing. Either way, you need to know what is coming out of the meeting and communicate it to others OR cancel the meeting before it even starts.
  • Customize and be Flexible – At this point, I have a few standard trainings that I’ve given several times. While I love designing new trainings, giving a tried and true presentation is so much easier and can be just as fun. The key is that you’ve got to make it relevant to the audience to which you’re speaking. Each training, presentation or meeting should be customized based on that audience and you should also be flexible in case of changes. One never knows what may come up: someone gets sick, a new person joins your meeting at the last moment, the projector won’t work, etc. If you’re prepared and know what your outcomes are, you can flex and bend with the changes.
  • Go with the Flow – This one is a bit more difficult to learn admittedly, but if you think about meetings or trainings you’ve sat through where you jarringly moved from one topic to another or the speaker didn’t explain how an example connects to the overall theme, you’ll know what bad flow means. Try to think of your training and meeting like you used to think about writing papers in college: you start out with a thesis statement, provide some evidence points and then conclude by reiterating your thesis. A meeting or training should be the same and it should make sense.

Now: go forth and kick ass in all of your meetings and trainings!


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The Quick and Dirty Guide to Standing Out in the Workplace

May 21, 2012 by

On Friday, May 18, I presented a session at the 2012 YNPNdc Annual Conference (hashtag = #ynpndc12) titled “The Quick and Dirty Guide to Standing Out in the Workplace.” My fellow colleagues from the YNPNdc Communications Committee live tweeted/blogged the session, as well as many others. The tweets from my session are below and you can find the full record of live blog posts on YNPNdc’s blog NETWORKdc.



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I must be totally nuts

May 7, 2012 by

Remember how I said I needed to shit or get off the pot this year? Well, on at least one big decision in my life things are “moving” (so to speak). My husband and I are seriously looking into buying a condo or house. We must be totally and completely nuts.

So far the experience has been – in order of emotional magnitude – bewildering, terrifying, frustrating, exhilarating, scary, really scary, and even more terrifying. And of course me being me, the first thing I thought was: this is a just like looking for a job. (I know, I can make an analogy out of anything right?)

This is where we want to buy! Arlington Village, by Flickr user Arlington County

Here’s the deal about buying property and job searching*:

  • It isn’t about you, its about themJust like employers looking to fill a position, people looking to sell their home couldn’t care less about you. It makes sense of course: they are out to get the best deal they can and they don’t give a crap who gives it to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re cool or nice or really want it. It never will matter, so just stop thinking it will.
  • Your best offer is often rejected (very quickly) – We’ve put in 4 offers so far and every single one of them was rejected within 2 days. (To be fair, the market in Arlington, VA has not slowed down like it has elsewhere; it stabilized and leveled out in 2009 and 2010 but its clearly back to its pre-recession levels.) Just like in a job search, no matter how much you offer, how amazing your application is and how much you’re willing to give up for the perfect fit, it often doesn’t matter. You propose and then they dispose – it’s as simple as that.
  • You have no idea what is going on in their headsNo matter how much you prepare, you’re just not going to know exactly what is going on in someone else’s head. This goes double for those selling a house since you don’t often get to meet or speak to them. But that will not stop it from nagging at you: What do they want? Why didn’t they accept my offer? What did I do wrong? And it sucks. So stop doing it as soon as you can.
  • The more targeted you are, the longer you’ll have to wait for successI don’t believe in applying to every job out there or going to see every house for sale either. That’s great because you don’t have to do as much work. But it can also be awful because it means you have to wait a lot longer to get what you want. And just like a job search, sometimes you start off wide and get more targeted in your search. Either way, you’ll need to acknowledge the sacrifice of work versus waiting time.
  • There are SO MANY other people trying to get the same thing – When we hire at my organization, we regularly get 60 to 100 applications for one job. And in every open house I’ve gone to with my husband, there are a ton of other young couples hoping to get a little piece of the American dream. They are our competition and the nagging worry that they may have more to offer, more money saved, more flexibility, etc. is maddening.
  • Waiting for exactly what you want is totally worth it – Obviously we haven’t found the house (or condo or town home) of our dreams yet, but I know when we do it will feel just like getting a dream job: amazing, fulfilling, overwhelming and totally worth the wait!

*The bullets make it look like this experience has been entirely negative, but that’s not really true. I believe every experience is a learning experience – even those that are sometimes painful!

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There is still time to find out how to get the money you deserve!

Mar 15, 2012 by

I’ve been pretty busy lately prepping for my salary negotiation workshop series with Alyssa Best that starts next Tuesday so I haven’t been able to post much. I’ll be putting up some new posts later this month, but for now I want to invite you to join us for these workshops if you live in the DC area. Remember, I have a special discount code that I can share with all my blog readers! Just email, Tweet or Facebook message me and include “Negotiation for Women” in the subject/tweet/message and I’ll send you a discount code for $10 off the price of the workshops.

Thanks and I hope to see you next week!

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